Choosing the best adult football helmet has to be the most important decision for your kit. In an age where news reports are rife with worrying reports of injury and long-term damage to players’ brains it’s essential to make sure you are as protected as possible. After all you want to enjoy the thrill of the sport and having the best football helmet will help keep you safe and your mind in the game.
No helmet will protect you from concussions 100%. That’s why you should learn the best hitting, tackling and blocking techniques. But where helmets come into their own is in preventing skull fractures, eye damage, penetration injuries and other facial wounds. Whichever helmet you buy always make sure it bears the NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) seal. Before use, check that the helmet is a snug fit without using the chinstrap to keep it on. When you choose your face guard – very few are sold complete – we recommend you go for a titanium one rather than a steel one. Titanium is stronger and lighter and will aid your performance. You will need a pump to inflate the air liners that are common in modern football helmets.
For nearly ten years, Virginia Tech researchers have been tasked with producing independent, unbiased ratings for helmets to help players make an informed choice when purchasing headgear. Their tests focus on concussion reduction and their science-led results shine through when looking at helmets’ resistance to head acceleration and real-world sporting impacts. Virgina Tech’s rating system has rapidly become an industry standard that manufacturers aim toward; achieving 5 stars is a mark of the most stringent safety performers. A 4-star rating is classed as ‘very good’ and a 5-star as ‘best available’ and you should always look to purchase a 4-star or higher helmet to get the best injury-resistance. Virginia Tech’s methods have been published in the prestigious peer-reviewed Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
Schutt Sports Adult Air XP Pro Football Helmet
- Faceguard not included
- Single layer TPU cushioning
- Surefit Air liner that is soft and durable
Two of the giants of the American football helmet manufacturer scene are Schutt and Riddell. The Air XP helmet from Schutt is one of the more affordable helmets that we like to recommend. Available principally in black or white this is popular among sportsmen on a budget or who want to try out in a sport where protection is important but they don’t want to sink a lot of money into it just yet. It’s a regular choice among varsity players and is approved for High school and above. The Air XP is available in black or white.
In terms of safety the Air XP features Schutt’s single layer TPU (Thermoplastic Urethane) ribbed cushioning that softens a lot of impact. It also benefits from remaining consistently effective across a wider range of temperatures than simple foam padding. Alongside the TPU, this helmet utilizes a SUREFIT air liner that gives a cozy, cushion-like contact with your head. The air liner forms a second layer of impact absorption which adds little in the way of extra weight so it’s good for your neck and endurance levels.
The Air XP Pro weighs 3.7 lbs and gets a 4-star rating from Virginia Tech.
Schutt Sports Vengeance VTD II Football Helmet
- Low-profile helmet shell, which makes it lightweight
- TPU cushioning is featured inside the helmet even in the inter-link jaw pads
- The liner on the helmet wraps itself around the player's head, evenly distributing the pressure and weight
- Includes standard with mechanically attached inter-link jaw pads and a SC4 hard cup chinstrap
- Open Air flow inside the helmet is enhanced with the open sided TPU cushions (Facemask Sold Separately)
Going one step higher and we have the impressive Vengeance VTD. Schutt pulls another great helmet out of the bag using their engineering history to build on their research and cutting-edge technology. The result of their work secures the coveted 5-star Virgina Tech rating. VTD stands for ‘variable thickness and durometer’ which in layman’s terms is the tech that is specifically designed to reduce the effect of both high and low velocity impacts. The Vengeance uses the latest generation of that awesome Schutt combination: a one layer TPU cushioning and SUREFIT air liner.
The air liners make for a particularly snug and supportive fit, they help the helmet mould to the unique contours of your head thus distributing and diminishing the force of impacts. We love the Schutt patented twist release retainer mechanism. The helmet foregoes the typical upper loop straps in favor of a simple two-piece system that makes it a breeze to attach or remove the face guard. The Vengeance is supplied with a chinstrap.
The Vengeance VTD II weighs 4.2 lbs and has a ‘best available’ 5-star Virginia Tech rating.
The Vengeance is readily available in four sizes from small to extra large. The small takes head sizes between 6 – 6.5, circumference of 19” – 20.5”. Medium is for head sizes of 6.5 – 7 with a circumference of 20.5” – 22”. Large accommodates head sizes of 7 – 7.5 and a circumference of 22” – 23.5”. The extra large is for head sizes of 7.5 – 8 and circumferences of 23.5” to 25”. It comes in no fewer than 12 glossy colors making it an ideal choice for customizing to your own team appearance. Oh, and did we mention they’re made right here in America?
Schutt Sports Adult Vengeance DCT Football Helmet
- Faceguard not included
- High powered shell with a dynamic faceguard line
- Patented twist release system
- Please use the Schutt Vengeance faceguards such as the V-ROPO-DW-TRAD, V-EGOP, VEGOP-II TRAD.
- Head Size: 7 - 7.5 inches, Circumference: 22 - 23.5 inches
The Schutt Vengeance DCT is now into its fourth generation and also features the Dual Compression Technology famous in the brand. It’s a robust shell with TPU cushioning and SUREFIT air liner which provides great impact absorption. You also get the reassurance that Schutt continues to invest in making this one of the best helmets you can buy.
For your money you also get the patented quick release face guard mechanism, a good quality varsity soft cup chin strap and 7/8” AiR Maxx TPU jaw pads. Jaw pads are incredibly important as they keep the helmet fitted properly and increase the protection against front and lateral impacts. Design-wise, we like the vibrant face guard line. Schutt does a fantastic range of compatible face guards (V-ROPO-DW-TRAD, V-EGOP, VEGOP-II TRAD) so be sure to check them out. Incidentally it was back in 1966 when Garo Yepremian was the last NFL player to adopt a face guard.
The Vengeance DCT helmets come in a range of sizes from small to large and fit head sizes 6 to 7.5 with circumferences of 19” – 23.5”.
Its Virginia Tech rating achieves a ‘very good’ 4 stars and it weighs 4.2 lbs.
Schutt Sports Varsity AiR XP Pro VTD II Football Helmet
- 5-Star helmet
- Traditional helmet shell
- Latest generation of TPU Cushioning System
- Faceguard Not Included
The Schutt Sports Varsity AiR XP Pro VTD II has a lot to offer its wearer (besides the very long name!) It still uses the traditional stand-off shell and single construction TPU of its stablemates but also features brand new interlink jaw pads for better stability. You still get the patented twist quick release for your face guard and the inflatable SUREFIT air liner. But the frosting on the cake is that it comes in a great range of 14 vibrant colors including a matte black.
The Varsity AiR XP Pro VTD II performs brilliantly in the Virginia Tech ratings garnering the top 5 stars ‘best available’.
Riddell SpeedFlex Adult Football Helmet with Facemask
- 5 Star Rating - The Virginia Tech Helmet RatingsTM ranked the Riddell SpeedFlex Helmet as a 5 Star: Best Available helmet.
- S-Up to 20 3/8" M-20 3/8" - 22" L-22" - 23 1/2"
- Patented Side Impact Protection (PISP) helps reduce force from side impacts. The Flex System is flexibility engineering into the shell, facemask and clip to reduce impact force
- Protection Varsity Helmet - Utilizes a shell constructed of a polycarbonate material.
The SpeedFlex is Riddell’s best entry into our list. It’s one of the most popular helmets in football today and used by many professional players. It also commands a higher price tag but you do get what you pay for where safety equipment is concerned. Riddell’s unique features include a ratchet chin strap attachment (Ratchet-Loc) that makes for easy release or securing of the helmet. A lot of research and experimentation has been channeled into this product; the company says that over 2 million data points of on-field actual impacts inform their design and safety.
The SpeedFlex polycarbonate helmet combines elements from their Speed and 360 models but presents them in nearly 100% brand new components specific to this new design. And the helmet looks and feels awesome, whether it’s the reassuring weight or the precision-milled stainless steel of the Ratchet-Loc.
On the field the SpeedFlex is one of the most comfortable helmets to wear, its clever use of padding and air cushioning absorbs impacts with aplomb and still sit perfectly. The side impact protection has excellent mouth area defense that minimizes jarring in a clash. It’s all part of the Flex System; a composite energy dissipation energy management arrangement that offers a great combination of comfort and protection without diminishing either. The helmet comes complete with a soft cup chin strap too. You even get a good quality face guard which is either finished in a gloss gray or black. It’s one of two football helmets in our review that actually comes with a face guard.
One thing we love about the SpeedFlex is the astonishing selection of colors you can choose from. There are ten shiny finishes, a handful of mattes and even metallic paint schemes. It’s available in medium, large and extra large for head sizes 6.5 – 7, 7 – 7.5, 7.5 – 8 with respective circumferences 20 3/8” – 22”, 22” – 23.5”, 23.5” – 25”.
The Virginia Tech rating doesn’t disappoint; it gets a well-deserved ‘best available’ 5 stars. It weighs a substantial 4.4 lbs but you soon get used to this thanks to the helmet’s superb stability.
Schutt F7 Adult Football Helmet
Schutt concludes our list with its mold-breaking F7 football helmet. It’s sold as a professional helmet that is targeted at athletes and major sporting colleges. This model demonstrates the latest advances in injury prevention expertise such as Tektonic Plate Technology. As with the Earth’s tectonic plates from where Schutt draws inspiration, the F7 uses panels of independently moving, impact-absorbing material that reacts dynamically in three dimensions. This lends itself to countering rotational forces from impacts that would otherwise be transferred through the helmet. Taking rotational impacts seriously is part of the F7’s great appeal and it doesn’t stop with the Tektonic Plate Technology.
The interior of the helmet sports the Radian Diffusion System (RDS) which lies under the air liner. This brand-new feature is your second line of defense against rotational impacts. And Schutt’s dedication to safety doesn’t stop there; the Helmet Stabilization System (HSS) that made its big reveal on the Vengeance Z10 and AiR XP Pro Q10 has been adopted by the F7. The HSS has a larger jaw pad which increases the area of contact between your face and helmet and improves safety performance and a better ‘locked-in’ experience. There are two sets of ‘fireman’s leather’ black stabilizer cushions included in the pack.
Overall you get six layers of protection with the F7 including the famed TPU cushioning. In addition to the impact absorbing properties, this helmet also showcases a redesigned outer shell that draws on Schutt’s experience and research. Given the moniker of Flexural Resistance, the back shelf of the helmet and temporal side wings mark a significant advance in strength and durability of the shell by how they protect critical skull locations.
It’s available in gloss black, matte black and gloss white and you have the choice between medium large and extra large. For sizing purposes, the medium is for head sizes 6.5 – 7 with a circumference of 20.5” – 22”, large is for 7 – 7.5 and circumferences 22” – 23.5” while the extra large accommodates head sizes 7.5 to 8 and circumferences 23.5” to 25”.
The F7 is supplied with its own unique face guards. Made from titanium, these are substantially lighter than their traditional equivalents and just as tough. The face guard has a quick release mechanism which is carried out with a couple of turns of a screwdriver. It’s no surprise that this helmet doesn’t scrimp on premium materials, it is after all an elite product and this all weighs in at a very reasonable 4.1 lbs. Do we need to mention its Virginia Tech rating? As you might expect, it easily achieves the 5-star ‘best available’ award.
We’ve covered our top choices of the best adult football helmets available today. The big takeaway is that the majority are rated as ‘best available’ by a respected academic study for their safety features. Purchasing any of our favorite helmets will help you enjoy a safer and more enjoyable game!